Teacher Retention and Staffing in 2023
Reviving the Future of Education with a Focus on Teacher Retention and Staffing in 2023:
Solutions to Combat the Teacher Shortage Crisis and Boost Retention in K-12 Schools
The education system is in peril as the teacher retention and staffing problem continues to plague K-12 schools. The reasons behind this crisis are as diverse as they are numerous. In this post-pandemic educational climate, teachers are burdened with additional stressors such as politics and disrupted learning from COVID while being cajoled into higher paying jobs, leading to exhaustion and dwindling motivation. The lack of support for new teachers has also created tension with experienced educators who feel they are being forced to pick up the slack. And to top it off, the lack of professional development opportunities for teachers has hindered the creation of a positive school culture. These issues must be addressed if we are to revive the future of our education system.
Across the USA, there is a growing crisis in K-12 education when it comes to teacher retention. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the nationwide teacher attrition rate has been increasing since the mid-2000s. This is concerning, as the NCES also reports that the overall number of teachers in the United States has been decreasing for the last few years, leading to a nationwide teacher shortage. Source: Teacher Turnover. Stayers Movers and Leavers.
Keeping the Best: 8 Effective Strategies to Retain Great Teachers
(Hint: These are not revolutionary, but absolutely necessary.)
Fortunately, there are steps that administrators can take to ensure great teachers stay.
- Offer a variety of professional learning opportunities
Whether it’s a first year teacher trying to find their way and grapple with the unique challenges of navigating their own classroom for the first time, or a seasoned teacher looking for new strategies to implement, educators are learners first and foremost. As an administrator, it’s imperative to encourage teachers to not only seek out their own interests and opportunities for professional growth, but also to provide a variety of options for your staff to partake in. The key here is to be confident that the PD you bring in addresses teachers’ needs and gives them tangible strategies they can use from the moment they walk out of a workshop and into their classroom.
Districts also typically have professional learning series that teachers may not be aware of, workshops that are taking place locally, or tap into your own talent and have a staff member host a training session on a topic they are an expert in.
2. Create an environment where teachers can thrive
Another vital step to take is to promote a supportive environment and school culture that values teachers’ contributions. Administrators set the tone and have the ability to make sure their teachers feel appreciated and empowered.
This can be done by
- setting clear expectations
- providing ample support with students and parents
- creating a culture of coaching and constructive feedback
- fostering a culture of open communication
- Fair and equitable pay with appropriate compensation
One of the most important steps is to ensure that teachers are receiving fair and equitable pay. This can be done by conducting regular salary reviews and ensuring that salaries are competitive with other districts and states. Additionally, providing appropriate compensation for extra duties performed or merit-based pay is necessary to incentivize teachers to stay in their positions.
- Provide basic necessities to teach
Administrators should focus on creating an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning. Although that may sound like an obvious statement, it is alarming how often teachers have to supply their own teaching materials and seek other means to make sure their students have basic learning materials. Ensure your classrooms and teaching materials are up-to-date and that your teachers aren’t out there buying crayons for their students.
- Ensure access to the latest technologies and resources
When teachers have access to the latest technology and resources, they are better equipped to do their job. So much of the 21st Century Classroom is integrated with technology. If a teacher doesn’t have reliable tools, are they really set up for success?
- Offer a variety of professional learning opportunities
Whether it’s a first year teacher trying to find their way and grapple with the unique challenges of navigating your own classroom for the first time, or a seasoned teacher looking for new strategies to implement, teachers are learners first and foremost. As an administrator, it’s imperative to encourage teachers to not only seek out their own interests and opportunities for professional growth, but also to provide a variety of options for your staff to partake in. Districts often have professional learning series that teachers may not be aware of, workshops that are taking place locally, or even tapping into your own talent and having a staff member host a training session on a topic they are an expert in.
- Offer flexible schedules
Flexible schedules and what can feasibly be offered will look different depending on your school and district. For some, it’s having a teacher work day once a month. For others, it’s giving teachers options on when to have their prep time. Even the smallest bit of choice and flexibility is appreciated and goes a long way.
- Reduce class sizes
This may be a wish list item for some districts, but class sizes truly can make all the difference. For a teacher having to manage 45 students in one middle school classroom versus a class of 30, there is no question which scenario is more preferable. If class sizes are not something that can be changed, consider finding a way to budget for teacher aides that can either be assigned to each class or can be a floating helper across a grade level.
- Provide time and access to mental health resources
One catchphrase that has become the bain of educators’ existence has been “practice self-care”. For most teachers, the question is not a matter of what to do, but rather how when there is no time or resources to do so. Cancel a PLC and replace it with a wellness break where you hire a massage therapist to do 10-minute chair massages for the staff. Organize a music and movement opportunity at lunch.
I’ll never forget one Wednesday afternoon where our principal announced over the loudspeaker that our staff meeting had been canceled and in its place we were to work in our rooms to organize and focus on whatever had been weighing on our minds. For me, it was my disorganized desk with weeks’ work of paper in piles everywhere. Using that hour to clear my space helped to clear my mind. We sent a before and after photo of the space we chose to work on, and it was exactly what I (and my colleagues) needed. I felt incredibly valued and appreciated in that moment because she understood the stress we were under and knew we hadn’t had a chance to catch our breath.
The Importance of Feeling Supported: Empowering Teacher to Thrive
The teacher shortage and retention problem in K-12 schools is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. But all is not lost! There are steps that administrators can take to retain good teachers and combat this crisis. Ensuring that teachers are receiving fair and equitable pay while promoting a supportive school climate with a culture of coaching, are guaranteed ways to reach an environment that is conducive to teacher retention. By taking these steps, administrators can help to ensure that teachers are happy and motivated. And when teachers are happy and motivated, students will be, too.
Providing teachers with access to training opportunities can help to retain great teachers. High-quality and relevant training can help teachers to stay up to date on the latest teaching practices and technologies, as well as allow them to reflect on and improve their teaching skills. Additionally, providing teachers with access to mentoring and support programs creates an environment where teachers feel supported and valued. By providing teachers with professional development and training, administrators can help to ensure that teachers are well-prepared and motivated to stay in their positions.